The G.A.R. Building Detroit

The Grand Army of the Republic



About 113 years ago – a group of Civil War veterans and the city of Detroit teamed up to build the Grand Army of the Republic building on a tract of land belonging to General Lewis Cass.  Total construction costs for the structure were $ 44,000.00.  This past year, we  acquired the site with plans to rehab the property and move our media firm Mindfield, to it.  Let’s just say, we’ve already spent a good deal more that $ 44,000.00 – and with the exception of peeling one hundred or so sheets of plywood covering from the windows…you’d really have no idea we’ve been up to much of anything.  There is a lot of “behind the scenes work” going on.  Every project has to start somewhere.

Most noticeably this week the building has had the addition of the cyclone fence that now surrounds two sides of the G.A.R. building on the Cass and Adams Street sides.  As we start to assess and prepare to both tuck-point and replace damaged stone at the site – it became apparent we needed to keep pedestrians and vehicles safe.  In time we will block off the Grand River sidewalk as well and begin attending to the stone on all 3 sides.  Fortunately, an initial look shows only about 5% of the stonework in really bad shape.  Once we set scaffolding we’ll begin to get a true final on what will need to be replaced altogether.

We’ve hired a team of two extremely talented craftsmen who will be our hands for most of the build out.  In this pre-construction phase, they have been busy assessing the overall condition of the building.  For the most part, we are really happy with what they have uncovered so far.  There is a good deal of water damage in both turrets – from the attic level almost all the way down to the first floor.   Over the years, scavengers and the curious alike have climbed past the four flights and up two sets of stairs and onto the turret roof.  Sadly, when they departed they generally left the access door open allowing rain and snow to pour into the building and chew up the wood floors below.

We also were lucky enough to discover some of the discarded slate tiles which once graced the roof of the building.  We’ve been researching what the original cover of the property was, but with no original plans for the building and most historic images too non-descript to tell we had no true idea of what was used.  This recent finding points us in the right direction.  Before too long, the asphalt shingles will be replaced with a much grander looking material.794e3-newjoists-scaled1000Years of water damage have called for the replacements of many of the joists in the “turret” sections.4a326-workers-scaled1000Part of the team working on the initial clean up of 30 years worth of trash.718bc-materials-scaled1000Most of the joists we’re replacing – along with other original elements – will find reuse somewhere in the building.ed449-originalslate-scaled1000The attic rafters have offered up some signs of past materials…3 original full slate tiles were discovered just this morning.  They are shot against the recently cleaned attic floor.

Author: G.A.R. Building

The G.A.R. building was purchased by the media production firm Mindfield from the City of Detroit in November, 2011. Mindfield has started renovating the G.A.R., with opening slated for November 2014. Mindfield plans to occupy the top two floors itself, lease the ground floor for 2 restaurants, and dedicate a memorial to Civil War Veterans. The G.A.R. Building was designed by architect Julian Hess, and constructed at 1942 West Grand River and Cass as an appropriate structure for meetings and other G.A.R. related activities. The original construction cost was split between the Grand Army of the Republic (who paid $6000 of the cost) and the city of Detroit (who paid the remainder of the $44,000 total cost). Construction commenced in 1897 on the five-story building.

6 thoughts on “KEEPIN’ THE BALL ROLLIN’

  1. Congratulations! I was on the city’s review board for selling this building and on the HDC. Your company was on the top of my list and I am so glad that Mindfield has started work. I thought your plan was the best fit for the building, it will be an absolute show piece. Thanks for the blog too!

  2. Thanks Danielle! We feel very lucky and are looking forward the future of this beautiful building as well as this great city as it continues to improve and grow.

  3. I feel we are even luckier to get to see some shots of it in progress. I love to see what’s going on as it happens, rather than just a shot from years ago, a shot from the present, and a shot from the renovated building. Thanks for this.

  4. What a GREAT story….finally.

  5. Can’t wait to see the finished product. Beautiful building with character! A perfect location for Mindfield.

  6. Very Cool…I’m calling the south turret, when can I move in 🙂

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